Kabankalan is a small city surrounded by mountains and sugar cane fields. Although most of the surrounding area is rural, the city has a small shopping center and it is a main stopping point for busses between Bacolod and Dumaguete, the two major cities on opposite sides of the island. The school where I will be teaching is called Talubangi National High School. The school is much smaller than the one where I've been co-teaching in Iloilo- it has only about 650 students and 20 teachers. I feel like there's a lot I'll be able to do there. My principal and coworkers at the school seem very enthusiastic about new projects and I look forward to working with them! This is my supervisor and I at the conference:
The site visit was, as I had expected, a rather overwhelming experience. I had been looking forward to finding out my site for all of Training, but the staff and students at the school and the people in the community had been anticipating Peace Corps American volunteers for years. The school was on a looooong waiting list before the Peace Corps was able to send a volunteer. And being the only American in my neighborhood, I got a LOT of attention from my community, school, and host family. Of course, the kids in the community are adorable. They were so excited and crowded around to talk to me!
I'm also happy that there will be another volunteer in the city with me. Meg, from my training group, will be in a different school on the other side of the city. So we were able to share some of the crazy experiences of the site visit.
As soon as we arrived in the city, I was taken to my school where there was a welcome ceremony for me, complete with dancers and an extremely talented student singing an opera song. Later, Meg and I were taken to meet politicians and DepEd officials in the city. In the Philippines, it's important to make courtesy calls to everyone along the hierarchy of your organization. (i.e. explaining why you are there, making small talk, and eating their food). We had two days of courtesy calls, and introductions in the community. I felt a little bit like a politician! Meg and I were even asked to judge part of a talent competition.
The last day we were there, we were able to visit the Mag Aso waterfall and some of the highlands. It's gorgeous and I'm so excited to live near mountains! Meg and I both went with our supervisors at our schools and some of our future coworkers. It was a great opportunity to bond with them too. We got to swim in the stream that feeds the waterfall and take lots and LOTS of pictures! (In true Filipino tradition). Later, when we visited the highland resort, one of Meg's coworkers taught us some traditional dances! It was a really enjoyable day, and a nice break from all the courtesy calls.
The next ones are from the mountain resort:
She's eating sugar cane!
My host family in Kabankalan is very nice. It's always an adjustment going to live with a new family, and they don't speak quite as much English as my current host family. The positive side of this is that it will give me an opportunity to keep practicing Hiligaynon, since I'll mostly be speaking English at school. My host family there consists of my Nanay, and her son and daughter, who are both older than me. There is also a cousin and a "helper" who lives with them. My host sister is married and was very pregnant while I was there. She actually delivered her baby on the day I left Kabankalan! I was so suprised to find this out, because when I woke up in the morning they were gone, and I had some communication difficulties trying to ask their helper what happened. I thought, at first, that it was an emergency! I later found out via text message that it was a normal delivery, so when I go back there will be a new baby girl in the family. As much as will miss my host family in Iloilo, they seem like really good people and, with time, I'm sure I'll form just as close of a relationship with them.
I like my site, despite the craziness of the three-day site visit. It seems like there's a lot of projects and activities I'll be able to do in my school, and the people in the community are very welcoming. Of course I'll have my challenges there, but I'd better be ready for them because starting November 13, it'll be my home for two years! I'm really looking forward to the experience!